Category Archives: Food-borne Infections

Public health officials investigate E. coli outbreak

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Six people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli (three have been hospitalized) Everyone who became sick had something in common – they ate food prepared by, a local food vendor called Los Chilangos.

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli Bacteria

E coli / NIAID

Public Health is currently investigating an outbreak of E. coli 0157 – one of the most serious foodborne illnesses you can contract. Our thoughts are with the families affected by this outbreak, and we appreciate the support of the community as we work to protect the health of the public.

A person can get an E. coli O157 infection from many different sources: by eating or drinking something contaminated with animal or human fecal matter, through animal contact, or through contact with another person who has an E. coli infection.

One of our responsibilities at Public Health is to track down these sources. When there are illnesses associated with any one of the more than 12,000 food establishments in the county, we search for contaminated products, ill food workers, or improper food handling.

We follow specific steps to find clues that help us pinpoint the source(s) that may be linked to illness. Here are key steps of this current investigation. Continue reading

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Fairs and petting zoos are in season: tips to avoid animal-spread illnesses

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Photo by dragonariaes

From the Washington State Department of Health

Millions of people go to agricultural fairs and petting zoos this time of year, and children of all ages love to be around the animals.

Taking a few safety precautions can help reduce the chance of getting sick after spending time with animals or their surroundings.

“We encourage people to enjoy their local fairs and petting zoos,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Just make sure your visit is a safe one. Washing your hands is the number one way to do just that.”

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E.coli and Salmonella, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact. Continue reading

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Washington firm recalls 116,000 pounds of whole hogs due to Salmonella concerns.

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Alert IconFrom the US Department of Agriculture

Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Washington, is recalling approximately 116,262 pounds of whole hogs that may be contaminated with Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The “Whole Hogs for Barbecue” item were produced on various dates between April 18, 2015 and July 27, 2015. The following products are subject to recall:

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS of an investigation of Salmonella  illnesses. Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between whole hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses.

Traceback investigation has identified 32 case-patients who consumed whole hogs for barbeque from this establishment prior to illness onset. These illnesses are part of a larger illness investigation.

Based on epidemiological evidence, 134 case-patients have been identified in Washington with illness onset dates ranging from April 25, 2015 to July 29, 2015. FSIS continues to work with our public health partners on this ongoing investigation.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume pork and whole hogs for barbeque that have been cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F with a three minute rest time.

The only way to confirm that whole hogs for barbeque are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

For whole hogs for barbeque make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in several places. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact John Anderson, Owner, at (253) 847-1777.

Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

PREPARING PRODUCT FOR SAFE CONSUMPTION

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHOTLINE or visit 
www.fsis.usda.gov

Wash hands with soap water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Also, wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water. Clean spills immediately.

Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and egg products and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods.

Color is NOT a reliable indicator that meat has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

The only way to be sure the meat or poultry is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, &Veal (steaks, roasts, chops): 145°F with a three minute rest time
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165°F
  • Fish: 145°F

Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase or one hour if temperatures exceed 90º F. Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

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Better know a germ: SALMONELLA

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Janice Haney Carr, CDC

Salmonella – Janice Haney Carr, CDC

By Lindsay Bosslet
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Our state, and our county in particular, is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. Government agencies at every jurisdictional level are working hard to stop it.

We sat down with Berhanu Alemayehu from our food safety program to learn more about what people can do to keep themselves safe.

What is salmonella? How do you spot it?
Salmonella is a bacteria that is found on raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, birds, raw fruits and veggies, and even pet lizards. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.

Why is it bad?
Salmonella causes food poisoning. Within 12-72 hours of consuming food contaminated with salmonella, a person may experience vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and fever. These symptoms can lead to hospitalization if not treated properly.

How do you get it?
By eating raw or undercooked meats (beef, pork and poultry), by eating raw eggs, and by eating raw fruits and vegetables that were processed using same utensils used to process raw meats and poultry. Salmonella is an equal opportunity offender – you can get it in a restaurant, at home, or at a catered event. Pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible. Continue reading

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Number of Salmonella cases in the state linked to pork climbs to 134

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Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

From the Washington State Department of Health

The Salmonella outbreak linked to pork products has grown to 134 cases in 10 counties around the state. Consumers are advised to cook pork thoroughly.

The case count has continued to grow as state health officials work with Public Health — Seattle & King County along with other local, state, and federal partners on the disease investigation.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent its team of “disease detectives” to the state to help. Investigators are interviewing the most recent cases and comparing information to early cases, which were first reported in the spring.

Exposure for many of the ill people apparently was whole roasted pigs, served at private events and restaurants.

Disease investigators are searching for possible contamination and exposure sources from a wide range of possible venues, including restaurants, markets, slaughter facilities, and farms/ranches.

Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in animals used for food, and proper storage, handling, preparation, and cooking can help prevent the illness known as salmonellosis.

Most of the illnesses have been confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella bacteria, and early testing shows a connection to a slaughter facility in Graham, WA. Samples were collected at Kapowsin Meats in Pierce County last week. Testing confirms the outbreak strain was present. Continue reading

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Washington Salmonella outbreak expands to 90 cases

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CDC investigators to join state and local health officials next week

From the Washington State Department of Health

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

The Salmonella outbreak that may be linked to pork products has grown to 90 cases in several counties around the state. The ongoing outbreak is under investigation by state, local, and federal public health agencies.

With the increase in cases, state health officials have asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to send a special team to help with the investigation. This team of “disease detectives” will arrive in Washington next week.

The likely source of exposure for some of the ill people appears to have been whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events.

Disease investigators are searching for possible exposure sources from farm to table. An apparent link to pork consumption or contamination from raw pork is the strongest lead, though no specific source has yet been found.

The likely source of exposure for some of the ill people appears to have been whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events. Continue reading

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Salmonella cases in Washington state linked to raw tuna

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Alert IconMore than 60 people have been infected with the bacterium Salmonella in an 11-state outbreak that has been linked to eating raw tuna.

As of last week, two cases have been reported in Washington state. Nationwide, 11 people have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.

The outbreak has prompted a recall of frozen yellowfin tuna distributed by the Osamu Corporation, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The two recalls include:  Continue reading

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Salmonella illness outbreak appears to be linked to pork

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More than 50 cases in eight Washington counties in 2015 so far

From the Washington State Department of Health

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

State health officials are working with state and local partners to investigate several cases and clusters ofSalmonella infections that appear to be linked to eating pork.

The ongoing investigation of at least 56 cases in eight counties around the state includes food served at a variety of events.

Disease investigators continue to explore several sources from farm to table, and are focused on an apparent link to pork consumption or contamination from raw pork.

Salmonellosis, the illness caused by infection with Salmonella, can cause severe and even bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Serious bloodstream infections may also occur.

As of July 23, the 56 cases include residents of King (44), Snohomish (4), Mason (2), Thurston (2), Pierce (1), Grays Harbor (1), Yakima (1), and Clark (1) counties.

Five of the cases were hospitalized; no deaths have been reported. All were infected with the same strain of Salmonella bacteria.

The disease investigation shows a potential exposure source for several cases was whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events.

The source of contamination remains under investigation by state and local health officials and federal partners. Continue reading

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Watcom County E coli outbreak linked to fairgrounds dairy barn

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaThe bacteria that sickened 25 people in Whatcom County has been traced to a dairy barn on the   Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, an investigation by county, state and federal health officials has concluded.

“All of the ill people either attended the Milk Makers Fest between April 21 and 23 at the Northwest Fairgrounds; helped with the event between April 20 and 24; or were close contacts of people associated with the event,” according to a final report on the outbreak released by the Whatcom County Health Department.

“Most of the ill people were children, including older children who helped with the event. More than 1,000 children from primary schools in Whatcom County attended the event on these days,” report said..

The bacteria, a virulent form of the bacteria Esherichia coli, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe diarrhea and in some cases a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, that can lead to kidney failure. Contamination of the fairgrounds most likely occurred before the Milk Makers Fest.

Investigators identified 25 people confirmed cases:

  • 9 of these cases were considered secondary cases (the ill person didn’t attend the event but had close contact with someone who did attend).
  • 10 people were hospitalized.
  • 6 people developed HUS.

No one died as a result of the outbreak.
Continue reading

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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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As many as 36 E. coli cases linked to Whatcom county fair

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaWhatcom County health officials report that as of May 1st they have identified 18 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with E. coli O157 linked to a fair held late last month and additional 18 cases with symptoms that appear to be due to highly pathogenic bacterium. Five cases have been hospitalized.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event, the Milk Makers Fest, that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on April 21 – 23.

The bacterium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157, can be contracted by consuming food or by coming into contact with animals.

The Whatcom County Health Department is  continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock. Washington State Department of Health Communicable Disease Epidemiology is assisting with the outbreak investigation.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. Continue reading

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E. coli outbreak in Whatcom County

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TEscherichiaColi_NIAIDhe Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli associated with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21 – 4/23/15.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.

The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Continue reading

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Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Raw milk causes more than half of all milk-related foodborne illnesses in the United States, even though only about 3.5 percent of Americans drink raw milk, according to a new report.

The researchers warned that people are nearly 100 times more likely to get a foodborne illness from raw (unpasteurized) milk than from pasteurized milk.

via Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD.

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Our plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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TuberculosisOp-Ed: By Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and  Secretary of the Department of Defense Ash Carter

Antibiotics save millions of lives every year. Today, however, the emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and our ability to treat and prevent disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Antibiotic resistance also limits our ability to perform a range of modern medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and organ transplants. That’s why fighting antibiotic resistance is a national priority.

Combating and preventing antibiotic resistance, however, will be a long-term effort. That’s why, today, the Administration is releasing the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (NAP).

The NAP outlines a whole-of-government approach over the next five years targeted at addressing this threat:

1. Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections 

The judicious use of antibiotics in health care and agriculture settings is essential to combating the rise in antibiotic resistance. We can help slow the emergence of resistant bacteria by being smarter about prescribing practices across all human and animal health care settings, and by continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals. Continue reading

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Shellfish harvest in Portage Bay will be limited due to pollution

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Portage Bay Bellingham LumiThe state Department of Health has placed restrictions on shellfish harvesting for part of Portage Bay in Whatcom County due to high levels of bacteria.

Water tests show that at certain times, the shellfish area is affected by polluted runoff from the Nooksack River.

Portage Bay usually has good water quality, but during specific times of the year the Nooksack River carries higher levels of bacteria into the shellfish harvesting area.

As a result, state health officials have changed the classification of nearly 500 of the 1,300 commercial shellfish harvesting acres in the bay from “approved” to “conditionally approved.”

Harvesting in the conditionally approved area will be closed each year from April through June and again from October through December. Continue reading

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